February 13, 2020
This weekend is both Valentine’s Day and the long Presidents’ Day holiday, a good time to settle in with loved ones to read some romantic poetry old and new. Then, discover a stunning memoir and two new fiction debuts, plus a creepy (in a good way) novel. Cuddle up and hunker down with these suggestions.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
Love Is an Ex-Country
By Randa Jarrar
Published by Catapult
Jarrar has an unforgettable voice full of exuberance and blunt honesty. Her memoir recounting a road trip across America, full of sharp-edged cultural observation, gives us deep insight into this particularly dynamic writer. A queer Muslim woman with a piercing curiosity, she refuses to be erased—as a woman, as a child of immigrants, as a fat person, as someone not always recognizable in the parts of the country she is traversing. Encounters with violence, prejudice and sexual danger inform these trenchant pieces. Always, through the rants and rage, she reminds us of the power of love in all its many manifestations.
By Ben Hopkins
Published by Europa Editions
Hopkins’s sweeping novel is set in the medieval era from 1229 throughout the next 50 years. His sprawling tale traces the building of a controversial, monumental Gothic church in the vividly imagined town of Rhineland, Germany. It also relates the stories of over a dozen fascinating characters representing the different religions and factions competing for control and power. You’ll meet bishops, treasurers and stonecutters, Jewish moneylenders, architects and disreputable politicians. This is great absorbing historical fiction, Shakespearean in its ambition, recounting a tumultuous time in European history and, at over 600 pages, it makes for a long weekend of reading as rich and grand as the cathedral itself..
By Sarah Langan
Published by Atria Books
A suburban Long Island community in the not so distant future reacts to an enormous sinkhole around which their homes are precariously perched. Front and center are the Wildes (mother, father, pre-teen daughter—our heroine—and her little brother who is on the spectrum) and the Schroeders (whose own pre-teen daughter has anger issues stemming from her suffocating home life). As in stories from Day of the Locusts and The Crucible to Little Fires Everywhere, the insulated community eventually turns on itself like an ouroboros. Langan’s perfect portraits of the individual families and the threat of being swallowed up by the climate change-induced hole is nail-biting, extremely good entertainment.
Milk Blood Heat
By Dantiel W. Moniz
Published by Grove Press
Florida has become incredibly fertile ground for fiction these days, though many earlier writers like Zora Neale Hurston exposed the dark underbelly of the Sunshine State. Now add to contemporary authors like Lauren Groff, Karen Russell and Colson Whitehead the name of Dantiel Moniz who is a firecracker of a storywriter. This debut collection is bursting with energy, the human condition unveiled through tales of loss and love. Don’t miss “The Exotics” which is a shocking yet subtle tale of short short fiction that’s like a mash-up of La Grande Bouffe and Eyes Wide Shut from the POV of the staff. Moniz is here to stay..